The Day I Dressed Better Than My Wife

I have been married to my lovely wife for over 31 years. During that time, I certainly have made a few missteps. Nothing too serious, mind you, just the kind of faux pas that may lead to a frosty evening or two. In order to prevent such incidents, my bride and I have developed a series of unwritten rules over the years. For example, I was trained early on to always put the toilet seat down. Some of my male acquaintances would consider that some sort of weakness on my part and that it is capitulation rather than compromise. I choose to look at it as an act of civility akin to “Never hit a woman”. I even used this rationale to teach my son about double standards and how to avoid conflict over trivial matters.

Another of these unwritten rules is to never, and I mean NEVER dress better than my wife. Fortunately, in my case, this is often quite easy. My closet can easily be mistaken for one at Barnum and Bailey. I like bright colors and clothing that makes a “statement”. I have sports jerseys, lounge pants, Converse All-Stars in about 20 different colors, and shirts with ridiculous logos. When my company had “Business Casual” days, I was the only one who had to dress up.

My wife, on the other hand dresses rather conservatively by comparison. What am I saying? Weird Al Yankovic dresses more conservatively then I do. My wife has a closet full of blacks, grays, and navy blues for work, and earth tones for when she wants to “cut loose”. Still, for some odd reason, she both respects and asks my opinion about nearly everything she wears. Every morning she asks, “Which shoes go best with this outfit?” She’ll stand there wearing two different shoes which to me, look nearly identical. Both are fine for business, but still, I must choose. I usually try to make a light joke such as, “I really need to see the bottoms first.” After a sneer, she goes with my choice 99% of the time which I assume is more of a reflection of her lack of self-esteem rather than my good taste. In any case, she always looks put together.

Ironically, people are much more likely to comment on my clothing than hers, which I suppose is how we both prefer it. For example, we attended a formal work function and she was wearing a pretty smoking red dress. I wore a tuxedo with a red bow tie and cummerbund. My boss, a humorless individual, was pleased that I was dressed exactly like him, since he felt that I normally dressed somewhat less than by his standard of professionalism. After complimenting me, he noticed that I was wearing bowling shoes that were black on one side and red on the other, with a number 14 prominently displayed on the heel. He was clearly chagrined, but the point is, that even in her hottest look, I received most of the attention.

We’ve infrequently been to events where we were both equally either underdressed or overdressed. In all of these cases, we were also equally embarrassed. The worst was a party for the daughter of an Indian friend of mine, the equivalent of a sweet sixteen party. My wife asked me to find out the level of dress, a mistake she’s never repeated to date. I asked another Indian friend who said a polo shirt and jeans would be fine. He was way off. This was a semi-formal affair with the girl and her family wearing stunning sequined saris and gowns. My wife was mortified. I tried to lay it off on my friend who had given me the bum steer, but when I found him, he was wearing a suit and tie. He sheepishly apologized and said that his wife had straightened him out after it was too late to call. I had made the same mistake that my wife had. I trusted a dude with fashion advice.

Often, we will be getting dressed to go out and we will simultaneously walk out of our closets. On extremely rare occasions, I will have chosen an outfit that is slightly dressier than hers.

“You’re wearing that?” she’ll ask, although it won’t really be a question. “I’d better put on something nicer”, she’ll say, or something similar.

“Seriously”, I’ll say, “is it such a crime that I look nice?”

“It’s not that. I just want to put on something nicer.”

“Then why did you pick that in the first place? It was nice enough before you saw what I was wearing. Does that mean that if I dressed worse, your outfit would then be okay?”

“No, you look nice. I didn’t think it was so dressy.”

“It isn’t so dressy. I just thought I’d wear something a little nicer for a change. I don’t want to make you change.”

Things pretty much deteriorated from there. I compound the sin of outdressing my wife by surveying all of our friends by relating the conversation, further embarrassing my bride. After returning home and heading to the bedroom, I remove my natty outfit and heave it into my hamper with a little more force than is necessary. As I am standing in the bathroom doing my business, I think for a moment about leaving the seat up. Yes, that will teach her to demean my couture. But after a moment, standing in my underwear, I realize that I no longer pose a threat to her. I put the seat down. After all, I’m not a savage…I just dress like one.

© Copyright 2014 – Robert O’Connell. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Finger

It’s pretty well established that men look at different things than women in most situations. For example, when driving, neither my wife nor I look at the road immediately ahead of us. She tends to notice everything that is happening in a 270 degree radius from the road shoulder on her right, around behind her, all the way to the oncoming traffic on her left. “Oh, that restaurant went out of business. Why is that jerk flashing his lights? He might as well be in my trunk. Did you see the color of that car? Would you call that mauve?”

I would typically reply, “Maybe you should be looking in front of you. Maybe you should worry about what’s in front of you. What the fuck is mauve?” I, on the other hand, tend to look farther into the future. I am usually trying to predict the light sequence and traffic patterns at least a half mile ahead of me, like an automobile-wielding Bobby Fischer. I noticed this when my son started noodging her from the back seat. “Go left, there’s a bus stop three blocks ahead. No, never get behind the tractor trailer. They take forever to accelerate.” One of the darkest days in a parent’s life is when you hear your kid mouthing off like a jerk and you recognize it as yourself. Still, he is a dude.

Another area where our world view tends to differ is when looking at other people. This is not true of all aspects of the people. Since we began watching Project Runway together, we have developed a similar way of looking at people’s clothes. Here are series of comments that you might hear from either of us.

“Just because it comes in your size, doesn’t mean you should wear it.”

“Checks and stripes, when did that become okay?”

“That’s a Glamour don’t.”

“Does that guy realize how stupid he looks with his pants below his ass?”

“It’s sad that no one loves that person enough to keep them from going out in public wearing that.”

On the other hand, when it comes to looking at other women, my wife tends to focus on the fingers, while I tend to zero in on the breasts. I have always been amazed at how quickly my wife determines the marital status of people that we meet. While I have my own trouble maintaining eye contact, she does a thorough examination of the fingers. This is more than just spotting wedding or engagement rings. She’ll notice tan lines or even evidence of playing with the spot where a ring has been recently removed.

We were in a thrift store one day and were about to check out. The cashier was a young woman, probably in her early twenties. I was doing my duty, ensuring our safety by making sure that the girl was not a terrorist wearing a bomb vest. She was not, but since I was already looking at her chest, I noticed her jewelry. The woman was somewhat petite with a small bust and was wearing a low-cut, but not distasteful top. What I found odd, was that she was wearing a double necklace with two charms. The first charm was a few inches below her neck, but the second was directly in the center of where her cleavage would be if she had larger breasts.

I wanted to ask my wife what she thought, but certainly could not do so while still in the store. I knew that this might expose me for being a leering creeper, but this was an actual legitimate fashion question. If my wife was wearing this, the lower charm would either be bouncing four inches in front of her, or jammed between her breasts, most likely drawing blood.

I waited until we were walking to the car and asked my wife if she had noticed the woman’s necklace, to which she responded, “No.” I tried to explain the necklace without using technical terms like cleavage or boobs. My wife exhaled demonstratively while shaking her head and said, “You probably didn’t even notice that she was missing a finger.”

Now it was my turn to shake my head. My first instinct was to say, “She had fingers?” After a moment, I said, “You’re making that up.” She replied, “No, she was clearly missing the ring finger on her right hand. If you weren’t ogling her breasts, you might have noticed.” At this point the hole was far too deep for escape. I didn’t ask why she was looking at the woman’s fingers and I’m sure she’d deny it anyway. I did go back to the store myself sometime later. The woman was working and I did look at her fingers. My wife was correct. The woman only had nine. If you guys are wondering if I changed my evil ways, don’t worry. Her shirt was buttoned all the way up to the top that day.

© Copyright 2014 – Robert O’Connell. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


I was listening to my music stored on my phone at the gym recently, and the song Centerfield by John Fogarty popped up through the random shuffle of nearly 2000 songs. As a baseball fan, this was a particularly upbeat tune for me, but this time, I began to cry. It reminded me of Dave.

When I first began teaching at the college level at a proprietary technical school, I was fairly young. I only had a Bachelor’s Degree and a few years of programming experience. As I was only a few years older than many of my students, I identified with them more than I did many of my colleagues. One such student was a fellow named Dave.

Dave was quick study from a blue-collar family in Staten Island, across the Arthur Kill from our Central New Jersey campus. He had strange hair that grew straight, but wouldn’t lie down. It was kind of like one of those early fiber optic lamps. Dave was the youngest of three boys, all of whom were baseball players in High School. This came up during frequent discussions of sports after class with Dave and some of the other fellows. Like myself, Dave was an avid Mets fan, and hatred of the Yankees is as good a thing to bond over as any.

I taught primarily morning classes so we both finished some of our days at 1:00PM. Occasionally, some of us would go out to a local park and have a little pick-up football or basketball game. We also occupied the same computer lab for eight hours per week. While much of the time was spent assisting students, there was also time to discuss football pools or the sports news of the day. Once, we arranged a full eleven on eleven tackle football game between the morning and afternoon programming cohorts at a nearby field.

My school also had extremely discounted tickets to local professional sporting events. Dave would go often with me to Rangers, Devils, Nets and Knicks games for five dollars through the Student Services Department. As a faculty member, I had to wait until game day to determine that there were any student tickets left. I got to know Dave as a bright and genial guy who had similar interests to my own. When softball season rolled around, I had an opportunity to learn much more.

Our school softball team played in an industrial league in Middlesex County, New Jersey. There were teams from Hess Oil, a large bakery, an industrial linen service, and several other factory types. Our team was made up of computer and electronics students. We were coached by a professor who also worked as an umpire on the side. I took on the role as Assistant Coach both so I could play, and so I could fill in if our coach couldn’t show.

Dave played first base. He was left-handed, which limited him elsewhere in the infield and he had played there in High School. Most softball teams placed their most hulking defensive liability at first base, but Dave knew what he was doing. I kind of filled in whatever position was needed. I caught, pitched, and played second and third. We had a pretty competitive team, coming in second to one of the Hess teams three years in a row. We usually forfeited a game or two during our school’s spring/summer break by having too many players out of town.

Dave and I had similar interests as students of the game, and were able to discuss strategy even at this level. When catching, I would run up the first base line on a ground ball in case the ball got away from the first basemen, a rarity in Dave’s case. Most teammates considered it excessive showboating and unnecessary at this level. Dave always said to ignore them. It came in handy once in a game we were winning in the last inning when Dave failed to scoop a bad throw. I caught the ball on the one hop off of the chain link fence behind first and threw the batter out at second to preserve the win. Dave gave me a nod and a smile. Whether in programming or sports, he loved when a strategy worked.

We also played in a few softball tournaments over the springtime. Dave drove me to one tournament and I complimented him on how careful and sedate of a driver he was for a young male. That same day, while heading to grab some lunch between games, Dave pulled from the curb and we were both immediately startled by a crash and the sight of a leather-clad individual flying over the hood of Dave’s car. It seems there was a motorcycle zipping down the road and Dave just didn’t see him. The bike hit just in front of Dave’s left, front tire. The bike went down, but the driver’s momentum sent him over the car. He landed in the street and immediately got up hopping on one foot. He was screaming many expletives, but mostly referring to himself as “I’m f***ed.” The police came almost immediately. It seems that the young man taken his brother’s motorcycle without permission and was an unlicensed driver, to boot. The police serendipitously took the young man away and had his bike towed. Dave never even received a police report. As the police took the kid away, he was screaming the he would find us and get us. We stood on the curb holding our arms across the logo on our jerseys.

Dave had a house down at the Jersey Shore for a week that summer and I popped down for a day to hang out. Before heading to the beach, I noticed he had a dartboard on the wall, and being a competitive male, I challenged him to a game. I threw on dart that bounced off of the board and fell. Immediately, Dave announced, “That’s a flaw.” It seemed to me an odd thing to say, so I assumed it was some sort of House Rule Dart colloquialism. Letter, the same thing happened to one of his darts, so I said, “It’s a flaw.” Immediately, Dave said incredulously, “Not flaw, flaw”. Now it was my turn to be confused. I said, “That’s what I said, flaw.” Dave points to the floor in his best Staten Island accent and says, “No, Floor.” They sounded identical to me.

The following spring of 1985, we had the idea to go to Mets opening day. The team had shown some promise after a decade of mediocrity. Actually, mediocrity might be too generous. Gary Carter had joined the team and there was enthusiasm in the air. I went with a group of about eight or ten students. It was cold and windy and the game, of course, went into extra innings. One idiot student tried to roll a joint during the game and most of his stash blew away. Dave and I discussed this. I never partook, but have heard that if you go to the hard rock laser show at the planetarium, the high can make the musical experience richer and the laser show more intense. Dave speculated that the kid was trying to turn singles into doubles or triples. When Gary Carter hit a game winning home run in the tenth, Dave and I rejoiced and felt cold no more.

I guess playing football, basketball, and softball wasn’t enough. One winter, Dave talked me into running a hockey club in order to get the school to pay for the ice time. We played in a semi-enclosed rink in the middle of the winter. Our ice time was from 2:00AM to 3:00AM. There wasn’t much we wouldn’t do to get our sports fix.

As the years went by, Dave continued his education successfully, and I probably had him in half a dozen courses. I went to his graduation and subsequent party at his house. I came to know his parents and brothers. I continued to be a friend and a council to him through his first few jobs, his marriage, the purchase of his first home, and the birth of his children. During this time, we joined an adult baseball league together for a season. It is here were I miss Dave the most. I had played years of softball and many other sports, but missed out on the opportunity to play organized baseball. I predated the current system of Little League where everyone who signs up gets to play. When I was six, I went to a tryout and saw three pitches. I knew no coaches, nor was my dad a cop or fireman in town. According to my mother, I could only play if she agreed to sell hot dogs in the concession stand, something she was unwilling to do.

Dave told me of this adult league and we joined together. He played first and I predominantly played second. This was new to me and Dave had an opportunity to mentor me rather than the other way around. For example, the first two times we had a ground ball to short with an opposing runner on first, I correctly made the pivot for the force at second, but failed to complete the relay to first. Dave told me quietly that I would have had the runner, but I felt that the opposite was true. Dave sensed that I was nervous about throwing the ball away throwing while spinning around and he was right. He told me to trust that he would get to the ball, and that I should let it fly. After that, I always did just that and he was right. While he did save me by plucking one out of the dirt now and again, most of my throws were in time and on target. You cannot imagine how great it feels to “turn two” in and actual ball game on an actual field.

At the end of the season, we found ourselves in the championship game playing the only team to beat us that season. We lost to them twice and they were pretty obnoxious about it. We played them to a low scoring tie through nine innings. I was on the bench and when we failed to score in the top of the tenth, our pitcher, who did all we could asked was shot. He gave up a triple to the first batter and stood on the mound with his arms extended. We knew he was done. With no other options, Dave offered to pitch. As a lefty, at least as he could give them a different look. I called the captain to the bench while Dave was warming up and told him that the book says to walk the bases loaded in this situation and create a force at the plate since a fly ball ends the game anyway. He agreed and Dave intentionally walked the next two batters. Now the season was on truly on the line. Dave threw one pitch. It got away from him and hit the batter in the foot. The game and season was over. My strategy and Dave’s pitching had failed. The funny thing was that we immediately laughed about it. We had all done as much as we could and had an absolute blast doing it. Dave was a man in full. We were peers in every respect.

During all of the driving to games and tournaments, the song Centerfield (released in January of 1985) got a lot of airplay. Anytime it came on the radio in Dave’s car or mine, we would sing along at the top of our lungs. We were just happy to be young and playing ball.

Dave roped me into doing a fantasy baseball league with him one year. As a baseball junkie and a stat head, this seemed right up my alley, but for some reason, it never got my juices flowing. I did enjoy the ability to stay in touch with Dave, the professional, and to give us more opportunity to discuss baseball.

A few years later, I moved with my family to Florida. Between careers and family and distance, Dave and I lost touch. I would think of him often, particularly when doing something that he and I did together. I also had a rich batch of stories I would relate about some of our antics together. After several years, I heard from a friend who ran into another friend who knew Dave. Someone had heard something about cancer. I reached out to Dave who told me that he was having some gastric issues and went for a colonoscopy. The test revealed a large tumor in his abdomen and that cancer had metastasized into several bad places. He said it was stage four, but he was 47 years old and fit and was hopeful.

I occasionally tried to reach him over the next ten months, but it was obvious he had his hands full. I was connected to him via Facebook. I was able to learn that he was divorced, but still extremely active with his kids. Facebook was an odd one-way window into Dave’s last year. His parents were gone, but his brothers and extended family were perpetually supporting him and by his side. He fell in love with a woman who obviously cared for him beyond words. They married only days before Dave passed a little over a year ago. I have wanted to contact her for the past year, just to share with her what Dave meant to me. Even though we never met, we shared time with a wonderful person, and I suppose that were we to share with each other, however briefly, it might buy us each a few more minutes with Dave.

“Put me in, Coach. I’m ready to play.”

© Copyright 2014 – Robert O’Connell. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bob O’Connell is the author of Flash Mob, a comedy-romance-mystery set in Montclair, New Jersey. He is a career educator and humorist. He has three children and currently lives with his wife in South Florida. You can find his book through  

Old Friends and Old Age

Tyrone is sitting in an examination chair at his eye doctor’s office. He’s wearing a pair of half-frame reading glasses and flipping through a magazine. Dr. Barry Levitz walks in holding an electronic tablet.
“Mr. Johnson,” he says, “has it been a year already?”
Barry smiles as they walk out of the waiting room toward the examination room.
“Sorry about the Mr. Johnson, Ty. I was just wearing keeping it professional in front of the patients.”
“I figured it was something like that since we’ve been friends for over four decades. And it hasn’t been quite a year, Barry, but my insurance is changing – and not for the better. I wanted to come in while I still had decent coverage. You know, this National Geographic is disturbingly devoid of topless native women.”
“You know, that would actually be funny if I didn’t have to remove those issues from the office. Do you believe I actually got yelled at by a mother who caught her 12-year-old son looking at just that?”
“Seriously? If you can get a 12-year-old to read, you must be doing something right. It’s not like he was reading Penthouse Forum like we did at 12. Was she your people or mine?”
“Mine, so she had no problem screaming at me from the waiting room. Go on, sit in the chair.”
“I thought your people entered manhood at 13. Maybe the kid was just preparing for his Bar Mitzvah.”
“I’m sure the little deviant watches every R rated movie on cable, but his mother freaks out in my office. God forbid he learns a little about the culture in Borneo. So I see you are still using the dollar readers. Any other problems?”
“Not really, but I’m up to 2.25 on the reading glasses. If you recall, I was borderline for nearsightedness last time, and I’m a little concerned that it’s getting worse. I’ve been coming to you for 20 years and I’ve had a pretty good run.”
“You were at the edge last time. This may mean contacts or glasses if you want to be 20-20.”
“I want to be 18-18, Barry.”
“Yeah, I want to see the world through 18-year-old eyes for 18 more years.”
“Let’s see, since we’re both 55, that would be until you’re 73. Why stop there?”
“By then, I hope to be retired and living in Borneo. By 18, I mean that I still see young women as obtainable, and when I pass by the courts, I can still imagine myself driving the lane. I see these kids today and still think that if I lost twenty pounds, I could show them a few things. You, of course, would still be using the two-handed set shot.”
“Hey, my people invented the game. We just never considered using the x-axis as well. Sorry, we’re all getting older, Ty. Check this out.”
Berry bends over to show the crown of his head. He has a significant bald spot developing.
“Yikes!” says Tyrone. “At least you can pop on that yarmulke to pick up the ladies. Why do you think I shave my head? I’m getting it from both ends. My bald spot is right up front and what was left in back had too much grey.”
“I think my wife would discourage that. At least you can rock the Samuel L. Jackson look. Have you ever seen a completely bald Jew?”
“Who was that dude with the eyepatch?”
“Moshe Dayan, I was thinking more like Curly Howard.”
“You’re right, it would be funny. Nyuk, Nyuk.”
“Yet, now I have nearly enough nose and ear hair for a comb over.”
“My problem is getting to it before it gets out of hand. I get these long white ones that are stiff like horsehair.”
“I get those in my sideburns. At least I have Stacy to trim them for me. The progressive lenses will help you see them.”
“How about I just get Stacy to trim me as well?”
“You don’t want that. She makes me trim her where she can’t see.”
“Are you saying…”
“Yes, and before you get aroused, it ain’t foreplay. I’m a doctor who saves people’s eyesight, but when I’m holding a tiny pair of scissors, I’m Norman Bates.”
“I guess I can leave, now that I’m blind. Can’t she go to a spa and get waxed? I assume you could afford it.”
“I beg her to go. She says no Brazilian is looking at her private area. Only her gynecologist and I have that privilege…and both twice a year each. Well, do you want to look at the normal eye chart, or do you want the one for children? It has boats.”
Tyrone puts his hand over his left eye and says, “K, I, S, S, M, Y, A, S, S.”
After the exam, Barry punches several pieces of information into his tablet.
“So, what am I looking at, Barry?”
“Not as much as you used to.”
“Ba-dum, Tchhhh. Save the Borscht Belt schtick. Am I gonna need glasses?”
“Probably, but you’re not going to like it. Straight glasses are not expensive, but with the presbyopia affecting the reading, you probably are going to want bifocals or better still, progressives.”
“How much?”
“Progressives will be about 400 to 500 dollars, times two if you want a backup pair. Do you wear sunglasses to drive?”
“Jesus, Barry, and this is every three years or so?”
“Probably, although you can keep the same frames and you probably won’t change the backups. You’re not severe enough for laser surgery and you probably don’t want to be carrying around two types of glasses and swapping them constantly. What about contacts for the distance and keep using the readers? Or, you can wait another year, assuming you aren’t getting headaches.”
“You’re the one giving me a headache.”
“The progressives will allow the middle distance so you can use the computer.”
“Gee, and I thought the porn industry was just using blurrier actresses. I hear they’re hard to adjust to. Will they screw up my golf game?”
Barry pauses.
“I’m sorry, Ty. That pitch was so fat, I didn’t have the heart to take the bat off my shoulder. Why don’t you just get married again so you don’t have to look at other women?”
“Now I’m the one too stunned to respond. I’d get progressive X-ray specs if they made them.”
“Look, I’ve got other patients. Think about it and let me know. You still coming to dinner on Thursday?”
“Yeah, I’ll be there. Regards to Stacy. Hey, when do the drops wear off?”
“You’ll be blurred for a few hours, so don’t drive without sunglasses and don’t hit on my receptionist.”
“Is she unattractive? My standards aren’t what they used to be.”
“No, schmuck, she’s my mother-in-law.”

© Copyright 2014 – Robert O’Connell. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.